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Blinded Me With Science II

The morning after I finally am able to finish my post about Robin Brande and Fat Cat -- which had made me think of the song, I hear about T...

23 February 2017

Is Science an Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? Or, Is It a Belief System Someone Can Reject?

Two vaguely related items that were aired on NPR this morning caught my attention.

One was on the continued tradition of townhall meetings and how many protestors are participating, for and against the  actions of elected government representative as well as for and against the Executive Actions and results of POTUS Trump, but most loudly concerned with potential situations  with these.  One situation is repealing Obamacare, which more and more is being called again by the shortened name of the law, "Affordable Care Act," to de-emphasize the former POTUS and to emphasize the misnomer (because it has not made health care more affordable for most Americans, "merely" more accessible, which is not a small thing).

Another situation is the "gag rule" on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as other related agencies, including not allowing Agency scientists to submit articles to peer review scientific journals or otherwise present their research to colleagues and ultimately, the world (can we even guess how many items heard on NPR are culled from the journals "Science," 'Nature," "PeerJ ," "Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)," etc?).

At a recent townhall meeting for Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, there was a lot of shouting, booing, cheering, etc.  Chaffetz and the Trump administration accused the participants of this and other such raucous meetings as organized and paid by liberal activists.  But, there was an interview with three participants today, one who is the parent of the 11-year-old girl with the now-famous (notorious) question for the Representative (which he did not specifically answer), "Do you believe in science?"  What a good question, Daughter Bradshaw.



Later in the Morning Edition program, they talked about marches on Washington and the debate among scientists on whether they should march on Earth Day in support of science.  One scientist, who said there's nothing in common with scientists except the tools they use, advocates a more face-to-face, one-on-one discussion of how science is needed or what a specific set of findings or research could help do, and especially objects to this march being on Earth Day, 22 April 2017.
"Those folks who have been trying to pigeonhole and demonize scientists as having a particular political view and identity will see scientists marching on Earth Day as a part of the environmental movement," says Rob Young, coastal geologist.
We certainly wouldn't want another tweet from POTUS saying the scientists were organized by liberal activists!

All of this does bring up new questions, such as, "Isn't asking whether you believe in science, like asking whether you believe in dirt or rain or hair or PEANUT BUTTER?"  Or, if we follow part of Rob Young's objection which is that scientists have nothing in common but the tools they use to conduct experiments and research phenomena, we may need to ask if the person also believes in sports or or rule of law or baking.  "Is science like 'alternative facts,' which certainly would be so, if one agrees a) that semantics matters and that the definition of "facts" is "a generally accepted reality," and b) there are alternative realities?"  In short, is all of science a theory?

It is a wonder that anyone believes NASA's big announcement yesterday about the exiting discovery of possibly habitable planets about the same size as Earth in a star system far far (40 light years) away?  They have obviously worked long and hard to put this live announcement together -- all charts and computer renderings; why can't it be totally fake?  (You know I'm being facetious, right?  Clap your hands.)






09 February 2017

Justice for All?

The latest hoopla with our President is getting a ninth Supreme Court justice confirmed to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia who died a year ago come 12-13 February 2017 (he was found dead in bed when he did not come down for breakfast while he was a guest at a Texas ranch, hunting quail.  Since the Republicans had been obstructing President Obama since the day of his first election in 2008 and had the majority in Congress, they decided not even to consider his nomination for a replacement, no matter who that person would be, saying they would wait for the next president, whoever he (or she) would be.  This kind of refusal to do the business of the country is unprecedented.  As it turned out, it would have been someone that they would have wanted -- Merritt Garland, but in the age of no compromise, no statesmanship, there was no way to back down from that extreme stance.

Some additional back story: due to the obstructionist nature of the Republicans (and for awhile, the obnoxious behaviour of the Democrats), to avoid filibusters requiring 60 votes in the Senate, the Democrats invoked what is known as the "nuclear option," for "up or down votes" (simple majority) for Senate approval of all the President's nominations except for the Supreme Court.  Now, the Democrats can cry craven all they want, but every single one of President Trump's nominees have been confirmed, even Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  This, I have to believe, is a pure political appointment, a boondoggle for a contributor, because she not only is not qualified in experience, she isn't even a political operative.  And when I mean she's not experienced, I not only refer to the fact that she has never been an educator, a member of the PTA or even a mother of a public school student, she herself has never attended public schools.  Additionally, the Department of Education has been one of the Federal agencies which the Republicans have been trying to eliminate, saying for a very long time that schools are in local control, and the Federal government should get out of the way.  I bring up Betsy DeVos's nomination, only because two Republicans acknowledged her unsuitability for this position and overcame their party loyalties to vote no, causing a 50-50 tie and resulting in a tie breaker by our Vice President Pence.  This event in itself is unprecedented, at least in living history.

President Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, whom some has lauded as conservative, anti-abortion, advocate of individual gun rights (a second digression -- Why does registering one's guns or having to prove competency to use guns infringe on gun owners' rights?  Don't you have to prove you know how to drive and know all the rules of the road in order to get a driver's license?  And, I don't think a dealer would allow you to drive a car off the lot without a driver's license or a car registration.), advocate of business interests, etc.

Now, the Democrats have a chance to block the first nominee to the Supreme Court and the Republicans have the chance to invoke the nuclear option on the one appointment decision which the Democrats could still filibuster on.  The question is, do the Democrats really want to that?  If the Democrats couldn't block Betsy DeVos, there is no way they will be able to do so with Gorsuch.  Granted, the Democrats are otherwise powerless, but will again be powerless once the nuclear option is invoked.  Granted, the Democrats and their supporters feel "cheated," and that the nomination was "stolen" when the Republicans successfully did not even allow Merritt Garland's candidacy to make it to the floor.  But, again, can the Democrats rise above all this and consider the President's nominee on his merits?

Some take the high road and say, they just want to make sure Gorsuch is independent of Trump's agenda, e.g., .  Some just say, they wouldn't vote for anyone President Trump nominates, especially since there has been pressure and unhappiness from Democrat followers over the Democrat lawmakers inability to do something or in the words of the protesters, "Do your job," although who knows what they believe the Democrats in office can do?  Not I.

I would be open to Neal Katyal's discussion on NPR, addressed to those who reasonably believe we need a ninth Supreme Court Justice and soon.  I think we can all that we do need a ninth Supreme Court Justice and soon.  Whether we can be less divisive than the Republicans (even find a way to capitalize on that!) remains to be seen.

What's the book tie today?  Christopher Buckley's Supreme Courtship is out of stock indefinitely at the publisher, but we hope it'll be back soon.  The premise is actually the opposite of what is happening now, what might have happened during President Obama's time.  The POTUS is having difficulty getting a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate confirmation process and in frustration, nominates a popular TV judge.  Thankfully, she does have a law degree and is a bona fide judge.